Friday, August 10, 2018

Sitting Orthoducks

This is a sequel to my previous post:

Perry is responding to James White. I have my own way of framing issues. 

And this is true for for evangelical and Reformed bodies as well. Given the absence of any manifestation of the world as a good creation of God in the space employed for worship, the conclusion one can often draw from a spatial void is that God is everywhere in general but nowhere in particular. This is, needless to say problematic for a paradigm that turns on God not only creating the world, but acting in and through history. This is just to say that if you’re view of worship is primarily about getting the right ideas into the heads of people, something is probably wrong and might just resemble incipient Gnosticism.

i) I disagree with the Puritans on the role of Christian art. I like traditional church architecture (Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic). However, I never confound religious art with the presence of God. Art is a human creation. 

ii) I don't think God is literally anywhere. But he manifests himself, the way a painter is present in his artwork. I don't think God is more present in a sanctuary. In many cases, he's less present in a sanctuary. From a NT perspective, Christians are sanctuaries. 

and you speak of the soul as imprisoned in the material body

That goes back to Plato. It has no counterpart in Reformed theology.

…individuals at Pulpit and Pen, who are apparently bereft of any tact and grace…

That's an understatement. 

So usually what is meant when one hears about Orthodoxy and reason can be grasped by the distinction between propositional knowledge and knowledge by acquaintance...There are certainly things you know not because you read some text about it or how to do it, but because you experienced it. 

That's a valid distinction, although I wouldn't apply that distinction to Orthodoxy. 

Consequently, White is wrong to say that the issue at the Reformation was the sufficiency of grace, as if there was one concept of sufficiency to be had. Here he is clearly begging the question and making the matter a zero sum game as if it is a matter of grace only in toto excluding any human participation or activity.

In Calvinism, grace doesn't exclude human participation or activity. Sola gratia precludes human participation or activity in election, regeneration, and justification. Sola gratia enables human participation or activity in sanctification, but not in the libertarian sense that Christians independently cooperate with God at that juncture. 

Lastly, with respect to baptismal regeneration and the sacramental system, certainly Augustine didn’t take it to be antithetical to sola gratia so, White has to place everyone under anathema. Baptismal regeneration is not some late doctrinal development either. It is very early, long before Nicea (and evidenced in Nicea as well for that matter) finding ample evidence in the second and third centuries. What is more, if baptismal regeneration and a strong doctrine of the eucharist amount to a denial of the Gospel, then White has placed the Lutherans under Paul’s anathema, which of course would include Luther. (If White is going to anathematize Luther, who am I to argue?).

The notion that saving grace is channeled through the sacraments turns grace into machinery. Moreover, it redirects the object of faith from Jesus to the font or wafer (or EO equivalents). And, yes, that's a serious defect in Lutheran theology. 

Here I am picking out an essential constituent of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, the Doctrine of the Right of Private Judgment (DRPJ). I’ve discussed this previously. (28)  In sum, the DRPJ is the thesis that any Christian individual is ultimately obligated to adhere to belief X, if and only if they judge (determine, assess, etc.) that belief X is scriptural. A consequence of this is that no ecclesial body can ultimately bind the conscience of any individual. At the end of the day, the judgement produced by the individual is of superior normative weight relative to himself than any judgement produced by any church. A further consequence of this is that on Protestant principles, formally speaking no doctrine is beyond revision or negotiation and this includes the formal canon of scripture as well. The faith is an approximate construction produced every generation through their exegetical practices and beliefs. 

i) An interpretation of Scripture, whether individual or collective, has no intrinsic authority. There nothing inherently normative about individual interpretations or collective interpretations. What makes an interpretation normative or obligatory is not who the interpreter is, but whether the interpretation is correct. 

ii) An interpretation is revisable if it's wrong. 

iii) It's ultimately up to God what errors he allows Christians, individually or collectively (i.e. creeds, confessions, denominations) to believe. We're all at the mercy of divine providence in that respect–and others. 

On the point of normativity, Richard Bauckham writes,

“The notion of the formal sufficiency of Scripture does not, of course, mean that Scripture requires no interpretation at all—a notion which anti-Protestant writers have frequently and easily refuted, thus missing the real point—but that it requires no normative interpretation. Protestant interpretation of Scripture employed all the ordinary means of interpreting a text, especially the tools which humanist scholarship had developed for interpreting ancient texts, and respected the views of theologians and exegetes of the past as useful, but not normative, guides to understanding Scripture. The real difference between the classic Protestant and the classic Roman Catholic views lies in the Protestant rejection of the view that tradition, expressed in the teaching of the magisterium, possesses a binding authority against which there can be no appeal to Scripture. 

It is important to be clear on this point. The reason is that other views take scripture to be the only infallible rule for faith and practice but do not amount to Sola Scriptura. And they do not do so because they do not include the DRPJ. So by contrast, take the view sometimes designated as Prima Scriptura. On this view, Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. All doctrine is to be derived ultimately from Scripture. But on Prima Scriptura, the church is the only infallible judge or interpreter of Scripture.

On Sola Scriptura, no interpretation of scripture could be ultimately normative or infallible, but on Prima Scriptura, this is entirely possible. Ex hypothesi, nothing precludes the church from doing the work of exegesis and then interpreting the scriptures in an infallible manner. If God should share such a power with the church, then nothing precludes this taking place. If the church had such a power, then it would ex hypothesi be incapable of interpreting scripture incorrectly. It wouldn’t make sense to pose the question of whether the church’s interpretation were correct or not if such a view were true. So then the relevant question would be, is such a view true or not?

What does Perry mean by "the church" when he says "the church is the only infallible judge or interpreter of Scripture"? Does he mean church councils? But he doesn't regard all or most church councils as infallible, does he? So that appeal only pushes the question back a step. Who ascertains that a particular council is infallible–in contrast to all the fallible councils? Is there a mechanism? 

This is why JW’s discussion of Sola Scriptura is somewhat baffling. Against Hanegraaff, he deploys an argument that turns on a kind of falsification principle. Unless a view is capable of being falsified by a comparison with scripture, it is to be ruled out a priori. JW’s thinking here seems to be something like the following. If the church infallibly decides matters for you beforehand, this makes it impossible for you to be in a position to be corrected by scripture or to even find out what scripture teaches. There has to be some “objective, external standard” by which the church in toto is correctable.

The first thing to note is that this of course begs the question as noted above. He is assuming a premise that the Orthodox do not grant, namely that the church per se is fallible. So he is launching a criticism that only bakes bread with people who already agree with a Protestant ecclesiology. But we already knew that the Orthodox are not Protestant, as shocking as that may strike some. This is why his argument goes nowhere.

Other issues aside, there are rival claimants to be "the church". So even if (ex hypothesi)  "the church" is infallible under specified (ad hoc) conditions, what's the mechanism to single out the true church, in contrast to the competition? 

Second, is that falsification principle itself falsifiable by scripture? It seems doubtful at best. What is more, to say something is not falsifiable is not to say that it is unverifiable. If the church infallibly interpreted scripture this wouldn’t preclude the church from offering proofs verifying its claims. White here seems to be mistaking the modal and normative strength of a judgement with whether proof can be given for that judgement. If the judgement is infallible then it can’t be false and it would be ultimately normative, but that says nothing as to whether a proof could be given for the statements or propositions comprising the judgement. Take God speaking to a given prophet. Presumably God speaks infallibly but does this preclude God providing requisite proof for what he says? How about the apostles and the prophets speaking infallibly? I can’t see how.

So what are the proofs for Eastern Orthodoxy? 

Third, we can turn JW’s falsificationist principle more generally against Christianity in a myriad of ways. An atheist could (and atheists have argued) that unless we measure the truth of Christianity against an “objective, external standard” and Christianity could in fact be proven false, then Christianity is unfalsifiable and therefore not to be considered. Or take a person of liberal theological persuasion who argues that unless White is open to the possibility of demonstrating that say Paul and James contradict and that Scripture is therefore not infallible or inerrant, he can never be in a position to know the truth. Why exactly is a falsifiability acceptable when White uses it, but not when it is used in other contexts? We aren’t of course told.

That only follows if the falsification principle is supposed to be entirely general. 

On a Presuppositional model what facts are and how they are interpreted is not theory neutral and so an incremental approach is precluded. (30) Facts are not brute and interpretation free. Facts are interpreted within a framework or a worldview. In this sense there are no worldview neutral facts out there. So if “objective” means paradigm neutral, then White is inconsistent. What scripture is and what it means is not paradigm neutral.

More directly, our experience of scripture through our senses and the use of our rational faculties is also not theory neutral. If we take say each verse or portion of scripture as a fact, it is interpreted as part of our worldview and not apart from it. What it can mean for us is therefore a function of our worldview. This does not imply some kind of Postmodern semantic nihilism. I am not denying that the text has meaning independently of what I think of it and so I am well within Realism here. But if we are to take Presuppsitionalism seriously such that facts are not interpreted apart from a worldview and facts do not of themselves discriminate between worldviews (that is, they do not indicate which worldview is true of themselves) then this will include scripture and our interpretation of any given part of it. And this is so because it will include our presuppositions about language, meaning, the nature of legal relations, metaphysics, and many other things. 

One other thing it entails is that we cannot verify or falsify beliefs directly because of the way they are related to other beliefs we hold. We do not examine our beliefs one at a time as it were, in isolation and this includes our beliefs about what any given portion of  scripture means. This does not imply that we cannot jettison beliefs or add new ones. We certainly do but we do so in a way relative to how much we are willing to sacrifice or admit. We don’t pick out a passage and examine it in isolation from all our other beliefs and then ask, what semantic information does the passage all on its own give me? None of this of course denies that we can and do get to the meaning of the text.

i) Yes, the hermeneutical circle. The interpreter doesn't come to scripture as a blank slate. He has provisional methods and assumptions. But there are many cases in which he changes his mind as a result of reading Scripture. Again, though, it's ultimately up to God in his providence where the interpreter can break into the circle or break out of the circle. There's no mechanism. 

ii) Like the ship of Theseus, we can't rebuild our belief system all at once, but must replace rotten parts incrementally. 

But there is another point here that is relevant to Presuppositionalism. If the meaning of facts is a function of a given worldview and there is no worldview neutral access to facts, and we are to interpret the facts according to the Christian worldview, would that be some kind of Christianity in general? If as was discussed above the notion of “Mere Christianity” is nothing more than a pragmatic constraint and is conceptually incoherent and historically untenable, then Christianity in general will not be tenable for the same reasons. So then the question is, which specific claimant to the Christian worldview are we to employ in interpreting facts, including scripture? Adherents of each theological model or schema will hold that theirs is the fullness of Christianity and everything else is a deviation. 

Many adherents of a particular theological tradition have that attitude. Speaking for myself, I view theological traditions as historical accidents. A theological tradition is a package, and it's usually the case that not all elements of the package are equally secure or entailed by other elements of the package. I think there's a need to disassemble and reassemble theological packages. Mix and match the best of different traditions. Be eclectic. But some theological packages are already much closer to the truth than others. 

And each of course will interpret scripture according to their own schema. When faced with difficult passages they will choose between various ways of accommodation or elimination. 

i) That can happen arbitrarily. However, the best schema integrates the most data. Has the most explanatory power.

ii) In addition, within Scripture itself there's internal prioritization in the sense that, for instance, a Bible writer may state an event, then go behind the scenes to explain the outcome by reference to predestination or God's overruling providence. In that case, the frame of reference is passages that reveal God's ulterior plans. 

For example if some canonical book contradicts their core views, they will simply remove it from the formal canon. 

Is Perry alluding to Luther? But Luther's position is idiosyncratic. That's hardly representative. 

Or is he accusing Protestants of removing books from the canon? But in Western church history, there wasn't a received canon. With respect to the OT, there were two competing canons, represented by Augustine and Jerome. Protestants didn't remove anything, but simply ratified one of the two preexisting options. 

Or they will employ various interpretive techniques to blunt its force. Or they will appeal to what specific terms mean in other contexts and claim that the usage in this one particular case is vague, unclear and so on, and so must be interpreted in light of “clear” usage in other passages. This of course simply moves the problem to those other passages. Such moves assume that we isolate semantic content and beliefs and take things in a one by one fashion and build up a model incrementally. 

Actually, it frequently invokes larger blocks of text. For classical Protestants, Paul is the go-to figure on justification. That involves entire books (Romans, Galatians). That's one example. There's nothing ad hoc about that procedure. Some books, or portions thereof, are written with the express purpose of expounding a particular doctrine or correcting some misunderstanding or heresy. So it's quite logical to use that as a benchmark. 

As to the first point of Protestantism being self-correcting, there is certainly some prima facia appeal in such a notion, but it should not be missed that this comes at a price. What it implies is that there is no fixity in doctrine beyond a pragmatic constraint. The fact that a given Protestant tradition hasn’t seen substantial theological change or development in say, three to four hundred years has more to do with sociology and psychology than principles and any supposed self-correcting mechanism at work. The reason is simple. If all interpretations of scripture, along with all human traditions are in principle revisable, then it follows that no interpretation is beyond revision...There is nothing in the notion of being self-correcting that implies progress toward a fixed goal. 

i) I'd hesitate to say Protestantism is self-correcting. It always comes down to people. And the extent to which God does or does not preserve individuals (or denominations or theological traditions) from error. 

ii) However, Protestantism is open to correction in a way that Orthodoxy is not. And there are theoretical as well as practical tradeoffs. If "the church" is actually infallible under specified conditions, then the Protestant position is a weakness. If, on the other hand, the church is not infallible, but some people labor under the illusion that it is, then errors become irreversible, and supply the premise for additional errors that build on seminal errors. By contrast, Protestants are free to reexamine traditional interpretations, and correct a trajectory that's increasingly erroneous. That's preferable to a doctrinal cascade effect. 

And then we have to take into account cases where “self-correction” has been offered such as with for example the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) by such figures as N.T. Wright or the Federal Vision perspective. How is that received? So far it seems that advocating for such self-correction is not met with dispassionate examination of a case on its merits, but more with ossified and intransigent prejudice such that advocating for it is a good way to get yourself put on trial for heresy, such as the case with Leithart. 

A common knee-jerk reaction. That's because humans are social creatures, so conformity to one's peer group is powerful. That's an omnipresent danger and reality in every theological tradition. Absent divine intervention, there's no solution this side of heaven. 

And why think that theology should “develop” in the first place?  

i) It should develop in part because it's necessary to correct traditional errors and theological trajectories that went of the rails.

ii) It should develop in part because doctrinal understanding is often a dialectical process that takes place in confrontation with heresy or social demands and challenges. In that respect, doctrinal understanding tends to be piecemeal, to the neglect of other things in Scripture. 

iii) There is, of course, no virtue in development for development's sake. When we hit upon a truth, that's the logical endpoint for that branch. 

The Father eternally generates the person of the Son, noted as begetting and generates the Spirit noted as procession. The Filioque doctrine is the thesis that the Father and the Son eternally generate the person of the Spirit as from one causal principle. 

I reject both single and double procession. I reject the whole paradigm. The Son and Spirit are not the product of the Father's action. I've defended my position elsewhere. 

MacArthur doesn’t actually hold to Sola Fide. And the reason he doesn’t is that he takes faith to entail willing obedience as a constituent of faith. Consequently, MacArthur doesn’t have the “empty hand” view of faith’s relation to justification. As I noted previously, MacArthur’s view, unless he has substantially changed it, amounts to the doctrine of formed faith, namely that faith is completed by obedience and is therefore justifying on that basis.

That's an interesting allegation. I assume Perry is alluding to MacArthur's position on Lordship Salvation. Since MacArthur is a popularizer and a reactionary, he may well be guilty as charged. 

I’ve written here before about why I think parachurch ministries are unbiblical and frankly dangerous. They take resources away from churches and end up creating personality cults. The timing of the video is just more of the same in terms of gobbling up Hanegraaff’s market share. The chief objection that RP fields is essentially that parachurch “ministries” are not licensed or instituted by scripture. (17:20 min mark and following) This of course would and should be a game stopper for those professing Sola Scriptura, especially a Reformed version of it. What is interesting here is that RP fairly clearly acknowledges that there is no scriptural justification for parachurch ministries. But what he argues is that there is such a great need for “specialists” who do this kind of work because the local pastor simply can’t keep up. So what licenses the existence of Alpha and Omega ministries is not scripture, but pragmatic demands that license them to go beyond scripture. This is the typical justification that is offered by all of the para-church “ministries.”

i) In my blessedly limited experience, Pierce is incompetent. The case for parachurch ministry doesn't rise and fall on his pitiful ability to defend it. 

ii) I don't draw a bright line between "the church" and parachurch ministry. I have a more decentralized view of the church. The church is what the church does. If someone is doing the work of the church (or doing something the church ought to be doing), then to that extent his labor is an expression of the church. 

iii) Sola scripture doesn't mean we require specific biblical warrant for everything we do. There's a distinction between what Scripture mandates, prohibits, and permits. 


  1. As a former Campus Crusader in my college days, I take a fairly dim view of para-church ministries. But I don't classify elder-run apologetics ministries to be para-church ministries in the meaningful sense of the word. If it is run by or under the oversite of elders and the local church, I don't see a problem with it.

    1. Uh-oh. Now your shady past is coming to light. Campus Crusade! I shudder to think what other skeletons you have locked in that closet!

  2. Oh yes. They made the mistake of stocking Berkhof's Systematic Theology in the library of the 1999 Ocean City, NJ summer project house. The rest is history.

  3. Anyway, my point is that to be fair to AOMin and similar organizations, they should not be lumped together with CRI or Crusade.

  4. David, that assumes that CRI leadership wasn't under some local pastor. They were. Second, as far as AOMIN's own expressed views, they require a basis for parachurch organizations being divinely instituted and they admit it isn't. So either they need to provide that scriptural justification, deny SS or dissolve. How would being run by an elder justify its existence scripturally exactly?

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  6. I didn't say "under some local pastor". A true visible church. With elders and church discipline. If I recall, Hank was going to Calvary Chapels, which have a "Moses Model" pastor/CEO, no membership (last I checked, anyway), and certainly no church discipline.

    CRI and Crusade are/were very broad evangelly-fish organizations. There was no oversite and accountability with any church. They could do whatever they wanted.

    What makes a one-man show like Aomin substantively different from the ministry of White's church? Probably it has its own LLC and coffers, but that's about it. The only substantive difference is that it has broader reach than the local community.

    I don't view apologetics as detached from an elder's duties to preach and teach the Word, engage in evangelism and missions work. And of course sometimes we partner with other like-minded churches (locally or more broadly) to do these things. So this does not require its own separate, distinct warrant.

  7. David,

    Even if we say that there is a substantial organizational difference the problem remains.

    Rich Pierce representing AOMIN says that they require biblical support showing that parachurch ministries are divinely instituted. He agrees there isn't any. But his reasoning is that even though there isn't biblical support, they are licensed anyway because of a pragmatic need.

    Now, better structure of not, Pierce has a problem.

    1. Its a non sequitur.

    2. Either he is violating his own position a la Sola Scriptura or he needs to provide some scriptural basis.

    I am just pointing this out on his own stated principles, not mine.

    In sum though, better structured or not, White knew of the problems with CRI and positioned himself to profit from them. And that is just wrong.

    For my part I think he has adopted the same strategy Hank and other parachurch businesses have, which is to just ignore critics unless you have to face them. Perhaps I am wrong, but I am not expecting White to respond and explain his public actions.

    If I am right and he doesn't then it will show that the substantial organizational difference makes no difference here because there is no real accountability. Its just another good ole boy network.

  8. There will always be problems in Christ's church, even if we carefully pattern ourselves after the NT church structurally. A church's elder board can always devolve into a good ol' boys club. We make safeguards against that, but the safeguards themselves are enforced by finite sinners. The safeguards are not infallible. That's just a reality until Christ's return. We deal with the hand we are given.

    Like Steve, I don't need Pierce's arguments to evaluate whether Aomin's existence is legitimate.

    The Reformed regulative principle of worship has historically referred to what we do in public worship as the local assembly. We need positive scriptural warrant for what we do in that sphere. But church ministry, more generally speaking, often operates according to broader scriptural principles and the dictates of wisdom. If our church holds Sunday school classes, or perhaps my pastor does a podcast with the pastor of our sister church, those doesn't need specific "divine authorization". Or if our denomination forms a missions board...and so on.

    And, needless to say, not all reformational Protestants who believe in sola scriptura hold to the Reformed RPW.

    The evangelly-fish para-church organizations like CRI are probably not defensible. The fact that Hank, the star of the whole show, can essentially change religions and yet everything just keeps on keepin' on, is proof positive that there isn't any real accountability and oversite.

    A better model for ministries that require the contributions of multiple churches is probably something like the way Reformed seminaries operate. They are inter-denominational, yet are constrained by an eye-watering amount of oversite. And even this is not perfect, many seminaries should have been bulldozed decades ago.

  9. David,

    That there are always problems says nothing as to whether this is one or whether Hank, White, et al owe people a public apology.

    I never claimed either you or Steve needed Pierce's arguments (or lack thereof) to evaluate whether AOMIN or any other parachurch ministry's existence is justifiable. I evaluated AOMIN based on their own arguments. Either they need better arguments, dump SS or dissolve. So far, they haven't issued any kind of response that I know of. And as I said above, I doubt they will, because the calculus is about protecting revenue and the business and not telling the truth and doing what is biblical.

    That said, I haven't see much of a justification offered by others either.

    I am familiar with the Regulative Principle but pointing to "broader principles" doesn't really help nor do the examples you provide. Here is why.

    What principles are those exactly that ministerial activities performed by parachurch businesses fall under? I can't see any that do. They all seem to fall under the biblical parameters for ministry, by ministers.

    Second, if your pastor were teaching Sunday School classes for a profit across dozens of other parishes or even outside that context, then this is more comparable to parachurch ministry. The same goes for a podcast. Doing a podcast is one thing. Turning a profit from it as his main source of income apart from the giving of the church is quite another. And of course a podcast doesn't constitute a separate legal entity from the church per se. My beef is not with podcasts and such. More to the point, the example you give does not constitute creating an entity that is not a church, even on Reformation principles of what constitutes a true visible church.

    What is a parachurch ministry? It is not a church by definition, elder accountable or not. So what is it?

    And yes I am familiar with not all who hold to some version of Sola Scriptura hold to the Regulative Principle. I was Reformed at one time.

  10. I haven't commented on who should apologize for what.

    My point is that there are para-church organizations (if we even want to call them that) that are legitimate in the Protestant and Reformed views, and should be regarded as a different category from para-church organizations that are independent, unaccountable and usurp the church's authority and duties rather than facilitating the church's duties and functions.

    Well, a seminary is an "entity that is not a church", as is a denominational missions organization. As is potentially true of an apologetics ministry or charitable organization, and so forth. Sure, they have separate legal identities, but that isn't a theological distinction. They exist to facilitate the work of the church by connecting elders and laymen of multiple churches for coordinated work that is often impossible for any single local assembly.

    Also, we don't have a problem with some of our ministers being specially appointed to preach and teach a majority of the time outside of the local assembly. They are called missionaries. Also, we have many ordained ministers who spend the lion's share of their time teaching as seminary professors, and are seldom in the pulpit.

    Of course, none of this is exotic or unprecedented. Both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox church have seminaries, universities, charitable organizations, missions organizations, and so forth, as separate legal organizations. Of course those kinds of churches can just say "we are the boss, we make the rules" to justify all of that. I get it. But let's not pretend that Protestants are doing anything inherently dastardly and innovative.

  11. David, that seems like question begging. Legitimate on what basis again? Last time is was broader principles. I am still waiting for some kind of justification.

    Moving it to seminaries just moves the issue. It could be easily argued that seminaries, at least historically are just extensions of a given church. How they exist now may leave them open to the same criticism unless we have some biblical justification for that kind of existence.

    That they exist to achieve some goal relative to the church doesn't constitute a justification for their existence. Again, what would the justification for their existence be?

    I am sure you don't have a problem with some of your ministers doing such and so. How do we get from, you don't have a problem with X, to, X is therefore biblically justified?

    As far as the Orthodox goes, organizations like AFR and seminaries are legally and organizationally under the church. They aren't separate entities.

    So again, where is the biblical justification for a parachurch organization?

    1. Speaking for myself, I don't view elders as the official grownups, from whom laymen must have prior approval for what they do. I don't think there's a categorical distinction between elders and laymen.

  12. I said that many of the things a church does in carrying out its various functions, duties, and ministries operate by broader principles and wisdom rather than by positive, explicit dictate. Scripture dictates *what* the church should do in general, and sometimes but not always *how*, at least in many of the details.

    Now, regarding "para-church ministries", at what point does a local church ministry become a para-church ministry? If a local church is involved in X ministry, and decides to partner with another like-minded church to do evangelism, apologetics, charity, or missions, is it a para-church ministry then? What if another church is added, and another. Does it become a para-church organization after 5 or 6 churches are involved?

    That ministry is not separate from the churches, but neither is it equivalent to "a church". It is a specific/narrow ministerial work of multiple churches coordinating and laboring together. It is not a separate entity, theologically speaking. Pointing out that it is a separate legal entity is irrelevant to this fact, it is a category error.

    Am I really to believe that RC/EO seminaries and universities aren't separately incorporated from their founding churches? Perhaps you will reply that they (or some) are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the church. OK, so then is your objection to para-church ministries the fact that they aren't wholly-owned subsidiaries? That hardly sounds like a principled theological objection, as if they were divine deliverances.

    Also, since most educated people are aware of the scriptural warrant for at least some ministers to set aside to be engaged in missionary work, I didn't think I needed to provide an argument for this. Am I wrong? Or are you just wasting our time with frivolous demands to score points?

  13. Steve, I would say there are things that require more or less accountability and oversight than other things. I'm glad that our seminaries have a short leash. On the other hand, as a weekend-warrior blogger, my guess is that the pastor and elders of my church seldom read what I write, unless I specifically send a link to them. Nonetheless, I can be held to account for abusive behavior or heretical statements.

    Obviously, there is a lot of territory in between those two extremes.

    But I don't think it is a stretch to say that the CRI situation is beyond unacceptable. Hank can take the ship in any crazy direction he likes. Maybe next week he'll decide to ditch EO and go RC. No one is going to stop him. The most that churches can do is cut off financial support.

    1. But no one has to donate to CRI, just as no one has to donate to Benny Hinn.